Ecommerce web design starts with applying the basics of retail success. To run a ecommerce web site, you need to do what traditional shop keepers do. Follow these rules to get your ecommerce site visitors actually shopping on your Internet ecommerce site.
The shop keeper has a product or products that she wants to sell.
Everyone in ecommerce or thinking of getting into ecommerce has this one figured out. Want a new car? Fresh spinach? A replacement part for your ancient typewriter? You'll find it on the 'Net. But a product, no matter how superior or well-priced, does not a good ecommerce site make.
The shop keeper needs a place to showcase his product. Traditionally, this is a building of some kind.
On the Internet, it's called an ecommerce web site. Think about how the physical retail shop showcases their products. There are products in the window to entice the customer inside. There are aisles leading to shelves of more products, all conveniently arranged for the customer.
Navigation is critical to ecommerce web design; visitors to your Internet shop need the same kind of visible, easy-to-follow pathways. They need to be able to examine your products and compare them with other products easily.
Visitors to your Internet shop need to be able to access your products easily. They can't just pick them off the shelf and carry them to the till as they would in the traditional shop. The back end of your ecommerce site is just as important as your front end in terms of ecommerce web design. You need to arrange the supply and distribution of your product before your ecommerce site goes "live". You must be able to deliver on your promise to the customer.
Too many ecommerce ventures collapse because the people involved didn't bother to secure the supply and distribution of their product ahead of time. What happens when people go shopping on the Internet don't get the product they ordered in a reasonable amount of time or don't get it at all? They will get angry, and chances are good, no matter how nicely you apologize to them, they'll never buy anything from you again. They will tell all their friends how unhappy they are with your excuse for customer service!
The shop keeper chooses a building for his shop that is in good repair, and has all the facilities such as electricity and heat that are necessary to make his customers comfortable. If the building isn't in good repair, he fixes the problems.
Too many ecommerce entrepreneurs don't bother to do this. They throw up sites that have large sections under construction, or have their sites hosted by providers that provide erratic or slow service. If a potential customer tries to access your ecommerce website and it's down, what does she do? She clicks through to another site where she can view the products they are interested in. Will they back? The chances are that they will not be back to your site!
You must have consistent, 24/7 hosting if you want to operate a decent ecommerce web design. You must present a fully functional, complete shop to get visitors shopping on the Internet. No 'Under Construction' or 'Coming Soon' notices.
Usability is another important component of ecommerce web design. For instance, if potential customers can't navigate your site easily, they won't bother. Pay special attention to the ease of the buying process. Your competition is always only a click away.
And you must maintain your ecommerce site regularly and often. An ecommerce site that's full of dead links kills the Internet shopping experience. An ecommerce web design that never offers any new content will bore visitors. If you can't afford to maintain your site, you can't afford to have one.
But even if you have excellent ecommerce web design, site visitors still may not shop from you...
Having a professional-looking, fully functional ecommerce site is one way you build credibility with potential Internet shoppers. Just as in the traditional shop, you must win your customers' trust before they'll shop on your Internet site. You will need to let your site visitors get to know you and your company as well as learn about your products before they will start shopping Internet. How does a traditional shop keeper build credibility with their customers and how can we do it on the Internet?
The 'physical' shop keeper makes her shop as attractive as possible, and displays the product to best advantage.
People shopping on the Internet need to see the product before they'll purchase it, too; incorporating an Internet catalogue into your ecommerce web design can really help build credibility. But don't make the mistake of loading many pictures onto too few pages, resulting in pages that load too slowly and don't provide enough information. A good Internet ecommerce catalogue will utilise a vast amount of web pages; it will be organized into categories, searchable, use thumbnails to give faster load times, and provide detailed information on each product. An excellent ecommerce site design will also provide product information and make it easy for the Internet shopper to purchase the product.
The shop keeper (or members of her staff) is physically present in the shop to welcome, communicate with, and serve the customers that come into the shop.
Too many ecommerce sites are anonymous and provide very limited contact opportunities for people thinking of shopping on the Internet, it is a real blow to their credibility. "If I'm thinking of buying your product, I want to know who you are!"
Real ecommerce sites provide real names as contacts, not pseudonyms such as 'webmaster' or worse, names that look like passwords, such as 'King1724'. They supply information about their staff and their company that the Internet shopper can access easily. Build credibility by putting a picture of yourself and/or your staff on your site. Customers need to have the feeling that they know you, or at least that they know something about you, before they'll do any Internet shopping.
Respectable ecommerce web design sites also provide information about customer service and contact information that is clear and accessible. Having to drill down through 50 pages to find an email address printed in a tiny font on the bottom of a page will give your potential customer queasy feelings, not good feelings. Most won't even bother to search. They'll just assume that you're not the sort of person they want to do business with.
Build credibility with potential customers by making your customer service information a prominent feature of your site. Put an 'About Us' and a 'Contact Us' or 'Customer Service' link on your ecommerce site's navigation menu and make sure it's on every page.
And write those pages; if someone bothers to click on 'Customer Service' and all they see is a single email address, your credibility will plummet. Shoppers need to see a fully developed customer service policy to feel comfortable about Internet shopping. Many Internet shops use FAQs which provides answers to common questions, such as how to order, shipping charges, and return policies.
And no matter how small your ecommerce site is, you can now provide customer service in real time. There are a number of Internet based customer service applications and scripts that let your ecommerce site visitors get immediate, on-demand help. That is a good method to entice ecommerce visitors!
If you want to get visitors to your Internet shop visitors actually shopping on your ecommerce Internet site, you need to make it easy and safe for them to pay for their purchases through the site on the Internet.
Internet shoppers want the same things from your ecommerce web site that they demand from traditional shop keepers. You will have to make them feel safe and comfortable before they will start shopping on the Internet.
Online payment systems and credit card processing are a case in point for comparison. Compare what happens on the Internet when trying to pay for a purchase with an offline shop keeper.
The physical shop keeper ensures that customers feel secure in his shop.
You need to do the same things to get people shopping on the Internet. Site security is a prime concern of potential Internet shoppers. You may have to work especially hard at this, because you have to deal with both the reality and the perception of Internet credit card processing. The reality is that on a secured site, transmitting personal information such as credit card numbers is less dangerous than using a credit card in a 'real world' retail situation, where someone might look over someone else's shoulder and steal the number, or pick the credit card slip out of the rubbish bin later.
"there is more risk in handing your credit card to a stranger serving your dinner than in shopping Internet."But the perception of credit card processing is that transmitting personal information such as credit card numbers over the Web is much more dangerous and that hackers lurk everywhere.
You must have SSL (Secure Socket Layering) on your Internet payment pages, so you have the ability to handle encrypted transactions. You must visibly show your potential Internet shopper that your site is secure and that your Internet payment systems, such as credit card processing, are safe to use. Using a third party payment processor like PayPal or SagePay takes away the need and expense of a certificate for SSL
The physical shop keeper makes it easy for customers to purchase products. She or a member of her staff is there to take your money, whether it be cash, cheque, credit or debit card.
Too many ecommerce sites make Internet shopping difficult. My personal annoyance are websites that only offer an order form that the customer has to print off, fill out, and post in. Why on Earth would I want to do that when I can just go to a traditional shop and hand over my cash, credit or debit card? If you have an Internet shop, you must offer a form of Internet payment, such as online credit card processing.
To accept payment on the Internet, you can use an Internet payment gateway system, such as PayPal, or set up a merchant account for credit card processing.
Many ecommerce solutions providers include credit card processing with their ecommerce packages. Easy Ways to Get Your Small Business Into Ecommerce presents a selection of inexpensive turnkey ecommerce packages for small businesses.
The physical shop keeper closes the sale with a "Thank you; please come again."
You need to do this on your ecommerce site, too. Whether it's a simple screen that comes up after the transaction thanking your customer, a follow-up thank-you email, or a thank-you card that you ship with the completed order (or all three!), you need to let your ecommerce customer know that you appreciate their business.
Blank screens, screens that automatically return to the home page, or screens that just repeat the order form after the transaction do nothing to give people shopping on the Internet the warm, fuzzy feelings that may translate into future sales.
Encourage Internet Shopping
Having a quality product is only one piece of the ecommerce puzzle. The biggest struggle is to get potential shoppers to visit your ecommerce site.
But even after you've put those pieces in place, you have to entice them to do their Internet shopping on your site by treating them as well as or better than they'd be treated in a traditional shop. Following the guidelines of popular ecommerce sites will assist in making the shoppers to become customers.
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